Obergefell: A Game-Changer for Women

Dean Lynne Marie Kohm at the BYU Law Symposium
     On June 26, 2015, the ancient institution of marriage in the United States was permanently changed from an institution centered on biological truths and the protection of women and children to one centered on individual autonomy, consent, and desire. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2599 (2015).
     My Graduate Assistant Sandra Alcaide and I presented a paper entitled “Obergefell: A Game-Changer for Women” at the BYU Law Symposium on “Obergefell: The future of faith, family and marriage,” featuring a collection of marriage scholars from around the world. Our thesis in that effort argues that the decision in Obergefell works to the disadvantage of women in three ways:
Dean Lynne Marie Kohm and Graduate Assistant Sandra Alcaide
     First, Obergefell changes women’s relationships with men.  We write: “Connections between women and men have been dramatically changed in Supreme Court jurisprudence in Roe v.Wade, in Griswold v. Connecticut, and in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, cases all critical to the rationale for marriage expansion in Obergefell. This strategic privacy jurisprudence progression has negatively affected women by continually allowing men to be released from their procreative responsibility. The redefinition of marriage completed in Obergefell will almost certainly result in not only a continued, but a greater exodus of heterosexual men from marriage, from the lives of the women they procreate with, and from the lives of their children.
     Second, it affects and alters equality for women in many ways including greater wealth inequality, new social inequality, health care inequalities, greater inequality in victimization, greater procreative inequality, and greater parenting inequality.  We discuss all these in greater depth in our paper, which will be published by the Ave Maria Law Review this winter.
     Third, Obergefell modifies the relationship between women and their children. We argue that the redefinition of marriage will further separate marriage, sex, and procreation, redefining it to make marriage a completely adult-centric institution; we argue that focus works to marginalize women and their connection with their children with even greater parenting burdens.
     Finally, by keeping our focus on women’s concerns in the wake of Obergefell we illustrate that natural results of that decision will mean increased rates of unmarried women, increased rates of poverty to women, and increased rates of reproductive exploitation, in contraception, abortion, and assisted reproduction.  Obergefell is a game-changer for women – and turns back the clock on gender equality and family restoration.

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